A gray wolf (Getty Images).
Two bills aiming to increase Montanans’ ability to hunt wolves passed second readings on the House floor Wednesday.
House Bills 224 and 225 would allow for the snaring of wolves and extend wolf trapping season dates. Rep. Paul Fielder, R-Thompson Falls, sponsors both bills.
As it stands now, registered trappers can use footholds to trap wolves from Dec. 15 to Feb. 28. HB224 would allow snares to be used in trapping, and HB225 would extend the wolf trapping season from the first Monday after Thanksgiving until March 15.
HB224 passed its second reading on a 68-32 vote. HB225 passed on a 69-31 vote. If the bills pass the third reading in the house, they will move onto the Senate.
Proponents of the bills argued that they promote effective wildlife management and are beneficial to ungulate populations and cattle.
“Allowing the sneering of wolves in Montana, by licensed trappers will give wildlife managers another tool to reduce wolf numbers, especially in areas where ungulate populations are stressed by wolves,” Fielder said during an earlier committee hearing on the bill. “I could have also called this Bill, the moose preservation bill, because we’re losing a lot of moose in northwestern Montana,” he said about HB225.
Opponents said they believe the bills are unnecessary overreach into the Fish, Wildlife and Parks operations. They also said snares are unforgiving and cause unintentional animal killings, including domestic animals.
“Currently, FWP has the option to allow for snaring, but they haven’t to date. That’s because snares have unintended bycatch of non-target species including deer and elk, and they are also a serious threat to dogs,” said Rep. Connie Keogh, D-Missoula.
Snares are designed to asphyxiate an animal by the neck and are a cheaper and more durable alternative to footholds that are clunky and less effective, Fielder said.
The snaring of wolves is allowed in adjacent jurisdictions to Montana like Idaho, Wyoming and British Columbia.
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